When Sashi Bluntstone, an 11-year-old art prodigy used by her financially-strapped family as their personal ATM is abducted, semi-retired PI Moe Prager is brought in to find her. Prager isn’t thrilled to be back in the detecting business, though, since his personal ATM is in good shape; he and his brother own several high-end wine stores. But egged on by a personal request from his estranged daughter, he picks up his discarded skills and plunges back into the game. Immediately, he is faced with several questions: Was the child murdered in order to drive up the dollar value of her paintings? Was she kidnapped for ransom? Or is she simply in hiding somewhere, no longer willing to face the outrageous financial pressure her parents have put her under? Besides being a terrific read, Monster spotlights the often vicious side of the art world, where even young children are savaged for sport (“She’s a no-talent freak,” snipes one critic).
If you enjoyed the Work of Art television program, you’ll definitely cotton to this book, but you don’t have to be an art expert to enjoy it, because Coleman’s deliciously snarky snipes at the art world’s pretensions could elicit snickers from a long-dead Rembrandt. The author has twice been nominated for an Edgar, and National Public Radio picked the Moe Prager series as a favorite in 2009.